Friday, January 1, 2010

Murakami Haruki and his women characters

Something that has always bothered me about Murakami's writing is his tendency to use women as plot devices that are suddenly picked up and dropped at various points during the narrative. It's interesting to read his reasoning behind it in this interview with John Wray for the Paris Review:
In my books and stories, women are mediums, in a sense; the function of the medium is to make something happen through herself. It’s a kind of system to be experienced. The protagonist is always led somewhere by the medium and the visions that he sees are shown to him by her...

My protagonist is almost always caught between the spiritual world and the real world. In the spiritual world, the women—or men—are quiet, intelligent, modest. Wise. In the realistic world, as you say, the women are very active, comic, positive. They have a sense of humor. The protagonist’s mind is split between these totally different worlds and he cannot choose which to take...

In other words, the protagonist is supported by two women; without either of them, he could not go on.
Although I appreciate his distinction between the spiritual/unreal world with the real/sane world, it just feels too repetitively convenient to keep seeing this same trope throughout each of his stories (however, he did shake it up a bit with a transgendered character in Kafka On The Shore). I don't know if it's fair to expect a male writer who identifies so closely with his male protagonists to see outside of that perspective and form fully-realized female characters. It creates a disconnect for me, however, and interrupts my enjoyment of stories that are otherwise beautiful and moving.

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